KEARNEY, Mo. — After allowing Kearney too many second chances, Platte County offered a final reprieve in the closing seconds of the Bulldog Classic championship game.
The Pirates trailed by double digits for most of the second half Monday, Jan. 16 at Kearney High School but whittled their deficit to five with 50 seconds left in regulation during a chaotic fourth quarter. John Watts then committed his fourth personal foul, and referees whistled him for a technical foul after the play in a costly sequence.
Kearney made 3 of 4 free throws and then added two more on the resulting possession in a 66-56 victory — just more than a week after the Bulldogs blew through the Pirates by 34 points in a Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup.
“A couple things we wanted tonight — the two main things — was competing harder than we did a week ago,” Platte County coach Rick Hodge said. “And they certainly did that. They didn’t come in intimidated or scared. They wanted the challenge and that’s what you want to see from your kids.
“The second thing I wanted was more poise, and I think they played with more poise right up until the end. And that’s when frustration set in.”
The ending brought a disappointing conclusion to a promising tournament run, which included a pair of tight victories and a rescheduled championship game due to last weekend’s forecasted ice storm.
Platte County improved to 5-8 overall, already surpassing last year’s win total despite being without senior guard Tanner Newberry (illness) and junior forward Lucas Stanley (eligibility).
The Pirates’ reshuffled rotations occasionally lack offensive options, but the development continues to show with a completely retooled roster outside of guards Kobe Cummings and DeAndre Rollins.
“It seems like every time we make progress, we lose another one,” Hodge said. “I think that’s where our offense hurts the most is altering what you’re trying to do, go through or whatever because it seems like every time we turn around, make some strides and they get it, we lose another player. It’s not an excuse by any means, but it does alter what you’re trying to do.”
Despite repeated second chances on the offensive glass early, Kearney fell behind 4-0 early on back-to-back layups from Cummings and Rollins, and two free throws from Watts made it 6-0 after a little more than 3 minutes. Kearney then responded with a 13-0 run to close the quarter and take the lead for good.
Platte County held the ball for the final 1 minute, 13 seconds of the first quarter before rushing up a 3-point attempt that badly missed at the buzzer.
Two free throws for Cummings (team-high 16 points) and a 3 from the left wing for backup guard Ethan Esdohr closed the gap to 13-11 early in the second quarter, but Kearney went into halftime up 29-19 after Anthony Pritzel beat the buzzer with his second 3.
The next push for Platte County came midway through the third quarter when JP Post split a pair of free throws, and reserve senior forward Austin Gammill — playing more with Stanley out — kept the offensive rebound alive. Deiondre Ragsdale, who made the all-tournament team with three double-digit scoring efforts, buried a 3 from the left wing and drew a foul, converting the four-point play to make it 35-28.
Kearney’s lead was back to 12 by the end of the fourth quarter, forcing Platte County to up the tempo in the final 8 minutes for a comeback bid, which proved mostly successful.
“They executed it pretty well,” Hodge said. “They foul too much still when we do that. We tell the kids, ‘If you’re going to play that style, you can’t, A, give up layups, and, B, foul and put them at the free throw line.”
Kearney’s lead hit 15 on Dylan Ritz’s 3 to open the fourth quarter.
Ragsdale’s three-point play made it 60-52 with 2:30 to go, and Platte County’s unrelenting and annoying full-court pressure continued to cause issues. A free throw from Watts, who finished with 11 points on his way to making the all-tournament team, plus a three-point play for Rollins (nine points) off of a turnover sliced the Pirates’ deficit to 61-56.
The final possession of six free throws ended up being enough for Kearney to survive. The two teams meet for a third time on Tuesday, Feb. 14 back at Kearney High School.
“We’ve got to learn. We have to learn,” Hodge said. “I like the kids. I like this locker room. I do. I like this locker room, and the kids want to continue to learn and want to continue to compete. I keep talking to these kids about, ‘I don’t care what the scoreboard says and what the record is. I care about the process.’ And that was the strong message here tonight, which was we were a little embarrassed after last Friday, and we wanted to compete better and show that’s not us.
“Like I said, that’s kind of what they did, and the process continues to state that we’re improving.”
Off to an 0-2 start in Blue Division play, Platte County was slated to play Belton on Tuesday, Jan. 17, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline. The Pirates play at St. Joseph Benton on Friday, Jan. 20 in a rescheduled game from December.
Platte County 41, North Kansas City 37
A second straight defensive gem helped the Pirates spring an upset Thursday, Jan. 12 in Kearney, Mo.
Using a box-and-one defense, Platte County held North Kansas City to 32 percent shooting overall (3-for-18 on 3-pointers) in a remarkably similar effort to a first round win over William Chrisman. Ragsdale hit three 3-pointers for the Pirates and totaled 17 points, while Watts just missed a double-double with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Rollins put up six assists to help keep the offense moving.
Platte County 42, William Chrisman 37
The Pirates advanced to the championship half of the bracket behind Ragsdale’s outside shooting and solid defense Tuesday, Jan. 10 in Kearney, Mo.
Ragsdale hit four 3s and scored a game-high 15 points for Platte County, which limited the Bears to just six points in the first quarter and seven in the fourth quarter. The Pirates led 23-20 at halftime, and the game remained tight from there.
Watts added 12 points and 14 rebounds in the win for Platte County, which held William Chrisman to 29 percent shooting (1-for-18 on 3-pointers). Rollins (five assists) and Cummings (four assists) served as the facilitators.